Here are a few small art museums worth a road trip


The Swope Art Museum

Nancy Kranzberg, Special To The Jewish Light

Earlier this year, I went to the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Ind. where I saw a wonderful small show entitled, “Curious Vessels” by our own Melody Evans. She has received numerous awards in her career including first place in the National Visions in Clay. Her works, which also include prints, have been shown in numerous museums throughout the country. It’s well worth the short drive, but the small museum itself is a gem.

The Sheldon Swope Art Museum collects, preserves and celebrates the best in American art with programs and exhibitions designed to engage, stimulate and educate those whose lives it touches. It also enhances the culture and contributes to the economic development of the greater Wabash Valley.

The museum focuses on American regionalism and consists of works by Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield as well as more modern works by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Robert Motherwell.

During COVID, we started concentrating on road trips and realized that there are lots and lots of these small art museum gems. Here are just a few”

Across the river in Godfrey, Ill., Lewis and Clark College hosts annual art exhibitions featuring student and faculty work, and has curated guest exhibits over the years for reknowned artists such as Ed Paschke, Dale Threlkeld and Joe Emons. A few pieces from those shows remain permanent fixtures on the campus.

The Monticello Sculpture Gardens on the Lewis and Clark campus feature permanent sculptures by artists Peter Voulkos, Richard Hunt, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Joel Perlman, Ruth Duckworth and Stephen De Staebler to name just a few. The works are featured within and around the incredible gardens. The Monticello Sculpture Gardens is a signature garden of the Missouri Botanical Gardens — its only signature garden out of the state.

Also in Mt. Vernon, Ill. is the Mitchell Museum on the campus of the Cedarhurst Art Center, which has made Mt. Vernon one of the most remarkable small towns in the United States. The collection was formed in the 1940s and 50s by Eleanor and John R. Mitchell, a prosperous Mt. Vernon couple, who acquired major works by Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassat, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, George Bellows, Robert Henri, William Glackens, and others. These artists are now recognized as some of the most crucial figures in the development of American painting.

The most exceptional paintings in the permanent collection are by artists who trained in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, but who remained deeply committed to the values and beliefs central to the American experience as they knew it.

And across the Mississippi in Belleville, is the William and Florence Schmidt Center for the Arts on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College. The permanent collection at the center consists of more than 900 works — sculptures, paintings, photographs, lithographs and more. Works by Salvadore Dali, Ansel Adams and Robert Motherwell are in this fantastic collection. There is also a very nice sculpture garden included in the center.

In March, I went to see the works of Edo Rosenblith and Jamie Stamm, whose works were on view at the Schmidt.

Rosenblith, who was born in Tel Aviv and has exhibited all over the world, currently lives in St. Louis. He is a compulsive draughtsman and works in various mediums including murals, prints, paintings, drawings and book arts. He implements a cartoon vernacular while reinventing personal and historical narratives.

Stamm was born and raised on the edge of the Everglades in Broward County, Fla. She resides on the western banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Her work focuses on preserving Florida’s environmental and queer history in the face of climate change. She uses a craft-based practice to tell these stories.

We recently went a little farther and saw the unique Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis. This special museum has an extensive collection of visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as Western American paintings and sculptures collected by businessman and philanthropist Harrison Eiteljorg (1903-1997). The museum houses on of the finest collections of Native contemporary art in the world.

In the museum are works by Charles Rusell, Albert Bierstadt, Joseph Henry Sharp and Georgia O’Keefe just to name a few. In 2005, the museum opened an extensive expansion that doubled the public space of the museum and includes works by Andy Warhol, T. C. Cannon, Kay WalkingStick and many more. In the expansion is also the Gund Gallery of Western Art. This gallery is dedicated to the 37-piece collection of traditional Western art donated to the museum by the George Gund Family.

Of course, one doesn’t have to leave St. Louis to see many small art museums all over town, but that’s an entire commentary in and of itself.